Man is inherently desirous of happiness. We all want to become happy; without happiness, human existence may have become meaningless. Therefore, we all want to avoid unhappiness, and this self-defense mechanism may then develop into addictive habit patterns that have ultimately become some of the characteristics of our individual personality, affecting how we think. In other words, to avoid unhappiness, we may subconsciously begin to "lose contact with our realities" and thus become the persons we are not supposed to be.
Struggle against Unhappiness
Depression is a mental struggle against unhappiness that an individual wishes to avoid, and in the process becomes a different person—a person with ever-changing moods and temperaments.
Depression is no more than a personal struggle against unattainable happiness, which is the essence of life and living. Therefore, almost everybody is always in quest of happiness. Sadly, to many, the quest for happiness is forever unreachable-just like a carrot-and-stick in front of a mule; the more pain inflicted on the mule by the stick: the more desire the mule demonstrates to reach out for the forever unattainable carrot in front. In many ways, a depressed individual is just like that mule with self-inflicted pain, which is the depression-the more unhappy that individual feels, the more depressed that individual will become, and the longer that vicious cycle of depression will continue, only plunging that depressed individual deeper into a fathomless black hole of despair and hopelessness. Depression is no more than a mental manifestation of the forever unattainable happiness that an individual strives to seek.
Happiness often creates certain misleading myths.
The myth: the happiness sources
It is always a myth that abundant wealth, good health, and satisfying relationships-what most people crave and pursue in their lives-will bring them happiness. Abundant wealth, good health, and satisfying relationships are only the byproducts of happiness; they do not cause or bring true and lasting happiness in real life.
To illustrate, many lottery winners attest to their experiences of temporary ecstatic happiness, and nearly all winners confess that their winning has ultimately made them miserable and unhappy for various reasons. Maybe once the initial stimulus of sudden wealth and the drastic changes of lifestyle have worn off, they ultimately return to their original baseline level of happiness or unhappiness. Or, maybe, according to some experts, having too much pleasure-what is known as “eustress”-could also cause stress, just as lacking in pleasure might be stressful to the many have-nots.
The myth: the happiness effort
It is also a myth that happiness is something that can be pursued with willpower and effort. The Bible rightly says that pursuing happiness is just “like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
Effort does not necessarily bring happiness; it only creates the illusion of an environment that is conducive to temporary happiness. To illustrate, one may work diligently in one’s career to excel and to get to the top of the profession only to find that one has a terminal illness, or has incurred a debilitating accident. For example, Steve Job, the co-founder of Apple computers, had his life cut short by pancreatic cancer at the height of his successful business career.
Pursuing happiness may be only a fantasy fueled by temporary moments of happiness, because aging, illnesses, misfortunes, and ultimately death plague all alike; in other words, impermanence cuts short all human efforts and endeavors to bring happiness. We are all aware of the fact that impermanence is an ultimate leveler of everybody and everything, but many of us still choose to delude ourselves into thinking otherwise. Denial only fosters the myth that if there is a will there must be a way to attaining happiness, and that all it requires is the human effort to make any dream come true.
But many are unhappy not because of what they have experienced throughout their life journeys, but because they don't have the human wisdom to perceive and process what they've experienced.
Happiness is a state of mind, due to the the perceptions of the human mind. Change your perceptions to change your so-called realities. Empower your mind with human wisdom -- ancient wisdom from the East and the West, conventional wisdom, and spiritual wisdom -- to think differently to have totally different perspectives of what may have made you happy or unhappy.
Looking at real examples of real people from all over the world may enlighten you, and help you live as if everything is a miracle.
Happiness is only an abstraction, a far-fetched thought that is often elusive and evasive; it is difficult not only to define but also to understand. That explains why wisdom is essential to attaining true and lasting happiness.
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen Lau